NASCAR's Modern Era is generally described as beginning in 1972 when the series dropped about 20 races to create a more compact schedule. Most of the races that were dropped at the time were short tracks in favor of speedways one-mile or greater in length. The bias against short tracks continued into 1993 when the owners of New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway bought North Wilkesboro Speedway to cannibalize that track's race dates.
It could have been worse.
New Hampshire was at least adjacent to the short tracks since that designation covers anything less than one mile in length. The flat corners and similar length also created a comparative for Phoenix Raceway, and these two tracks have been linked since. While the difference in weather has created dissimilar wear patterns on the asphalt, the skill set required to go fast on both tracks remains the same.
To maximize straightaway speed, drivers must brake hard before entering the corner, roll to the apex, and nail the accelerators on the exit. The other short, flat tracks that we look at during the New Hampshire weekend are the 0.75-mile Richmond Raceway and the 0.5-mile Martinsville Speedway.
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Tentatively, World Wide Technology Raceway is also being included in this track type until we have a chance to further evaluate its driving pattern.
From 2000 through 2017, New Hampshire hosted two races per year with the last several seasons seeing their events in July and September. Beginning in 2014, the second race of the year was part of the playoffs, but realignment dropped it and held onto the summertime event.
For a while, this track was kind to early winners with five drivers scoring their first Cup win there. Jeff Burton scored his second career win in New Hampshire in 1997 and his fourth in 1998. Joe Nemechek was the first, first-time winner in 1999 and through Clint Bowyer (earning his first in 2007), most winners had fewer than 10 previous victories. The latest of the first timers was Joey Logano in 2009, who won a weather-aided event.
In that light, it was a little surprising to see Aric Almirola grace Victory Lane last year. His Foxwood Resort Casino 301 victory was the third of his career and it came in a season when he and the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing struggled. It also came with +9000 odds at PointsBet Sportsbook. Second-place Christopher Bell (+2800) and fifth-place Ryan Blaney (+2000) were also listed at 20/1 or higher.
In retrospect, it might not have been such a surprise because Almirola had two previous top-fives to his credit, but one of these came in 2013 and was not front-of-mind among handicappers. The top of the top-five list below is dominated by experienced veterans with Young Guns making their renewed splash only recently.
Likewise, among the active winners, Almirola's name stands out behind those same drivers.
In 2022, the winning combination doesn't necessarily need to come from the sportsbook favorites, but smart money will be placed on drivers with five or more seasons under their belts who have already scored double-digit wins.
July 17, Ambetter 301
Power Rankings After Week 19
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Power Rankings After Week 20
13: Kevin Harvick
11: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin
9: Brad Keselowski
8: Kurt Busch, Joey Logano
7: Martin Truex Jr.
4: Kyle Larson
3: Aric Almirola
2: Ryan Blaney
1: Christopher Bell, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott
Joey Logano: 2 top-fives; 5 top-10s; 5 lead lap finishes
Aric Almirola: 2 top-10s; 4 lead lap finishes
Kevin Harvick: 4 top-10s (6th or better); 4 lead lap finishes
Denny Hamlin: 3 top-10s; 10 lead lap finishes
Brad Keselowski: 3 top-fives; 3 lead lap finishes (and 16 of 17)
Martin Truex Jr.: 19 lead lap finishes
Ryan Blaney: 8 lead lap finishes
Alex Bowman: 6 lead lap finishes
Tyler Reddick: 2 lead lap finishes (all)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 2 lead lap finishes
Kyle Busch: 2 accidents; 3 consecutive crash damage
2009 Lenox Industrial Tools 301: Joey Logano
2007 Sylvania 300: Clint Bowyer
2002 New Hampshire 300: Ryan Newman
2001 New Hampshire 300: Robby Gordon
1999 Dura Lube / Kmart 300: Joe Nemechek
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Atlanta Motor Speedway
Auto Club Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt)
Charlotte Motor Speedway (oval)
Dover International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
World Wide Technology Raceway
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